by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
I have come to the realization that I have a real temper problem. I lose my cool quickly and fairly often. With the smallest provocation I fly off the handle, scream and shout and say things that I later regret. Sometimes I can be quite abusive, humiliating those around me. I really need to work on this problem. What do you suggest?
Fixing a personality defect or a character flaw is no different to treating a physical disease.
There are 5 steps in dealing with physical illness:
a) The first and most critical step is to recognize that we are ill.
b) We don't have the necessary expertise ourselves, so we go to the doctor.
c) The professional makes a diagnosis.
d) Based on an accurate diagnosis the doctor prescribes the appropriate treatment.
e) Just focusing on the specific sickness is ineffective. We need to develop a general health plan. Healthy routines of eating, exercise, rest and stress management, affect our general strength and help prevent future disease.
Dealing with a character deficit such as out of control anger is no different.
a) You have to recognize that you have a problem (you have done that already - congratulations, you are on the way to recovery).
b) Don't do it alone. Discuss it with a mentor and if necessary with a competent therapist.
c) Although the ultimate goal of self control is obvious, it can only really be sustained with a good diagnosis. You need to understand why you are so easily provoked, what are the red flags that ignite an outburst and what are the times that you are most vulnerable.
d) With a good diagnosis your mentor or counselor can help you develop a good action plan. This will include learning how to recognize the onset of an angry mood and the strategies to make sure it doesn't explode.
e) You need a general health plan. Sometimes we fail in specific areas because we have lost a general positive focus. Developing a good plan of growth where we ensure that we are involved in activities of kindness, spiritual growth, personal study all create a stronger person that can fight specific weaknesses with strength .
You have already completed step one. Only four to go - good luck.